UpNano uses high power laser to speed up two-photon 3D printing process

Vienna-based two-photon polymerization (2PP) 3D printing specialist UpNano has used a high-power laser to speed up the printing of parts with nano and microscale resolution across 12 orders of magnitude.

The laser, in addition to an optimized optical pathway, patented adaptive resolution technology, and smart algorithms for laser scanning, enabled the firm’s NanoOne printing system to produce highly precise parts with nano and micrometer resolution which range from centimeter to micrometer in size.

“We developed and patented an innovative adaptive resolution technology for our 3D printing system,” said Peter Gruber, head of technology and co-founder of UpNano. “Together with an optimized optical path and smart algorithms, we can utilize the full laser power up to one watt, which is several times more than in comparable systems.”

UpNano printed four models of the Eiffel Tower ranging from 200 micrometers to four centimetres, in 30-540 minutes. Image via UpNano.

Two-photon 3D printing

2PP 3D printing is an ultra-precise production technology that, up until recently, could only be optimized for a limited range of scale. Production in the centimeter-range was also considered time-consuming and therefore unattractive for quantitative production within industrial applications.

Nanoscribe, a fellow manufacturer of two-photon additive manufacturing systems, introduced a new machine in June last year, the Quantum X, which according to Dr. Michael Thiel, co-founder and CSO of Nanoscribe, overcomes the limitations of Beer’s law. And in 2018, working with two-photon lithography such as 3D microprinting, Nanoscribe developed a new method for creating microscopic security features.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) turned the two-photon lithography process on its head, enabling what is termed “dip-in laser lithography”.

UpNano, founded in September 2018 as a spin-out of TU Wien, has since created the NanoOne printing system, its first commercial product, which has significantly sped up the 2PP process. It is able to print microparts with structural details larger or equal to 170 nm in a matter of minutes.

A range of nano-sized samples by Nanoscribe. Image via Nanoscribe.
A range of nano-sized 3D printed samples by Nanoscribe. Image via Nanoscribe.

UpNano’s adaptive resolution technology

During UpNano’s 2PP process, the powerful laser can deliver enough energy for high-speed printing, a significant advantage in comparison to other systems, according to Bernhard Küenburg, UpNano CEO.

“The benefit of this innovation is most notable in the meso range,” he said. “The NanoOne offers significantly faster production times than other systems. Add our patented adaptive resolution technology to this and you end up with a capability to print centimeter-large objects with a micrometer resolution in short production cycles.”

The technology’s smart algorithms enable a widening of the laser spot to a factor of 10, in accordance with the specifications of what is being printed. Changing the objectives allows the production of parts in the micro range with resolutions at the nanometer scale, also at a faster rate than other available systems, due to the specific optical pathways and optimized scan algorithms within the technology.

The NanoOne technology could be applied to springs used in med tech applications. Image via UpNano.

From R&D to industry

According to UpNano, the system has generated “great interest” in R&D and industry after its introduction to the market. One potential application of the technology is in medicine and research through the production of micro needles with tight tolerances and defined features, such as the tip of a cannula.

With the ability to produce functional micro-mechanic parts, the technology could also be applied to springs or two-component parts featuring moveable elements, designed for med-tech applications. The larger size-range of the NanoOne is also suitable for filter applications several square centimeters in size, offering what it calls a “new horizon” for filtering and separation processes.

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Featured image shows the NanoOne printing system which can produce microparts as small as 170 nm. Image via UpNano.



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